An Indo-Pak tribute to Amjad Sabri

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Nitin Mitta and Naseeruddin Saami with the Saami brothers at Peabody Essex Museum. Photo: Beena Sarwar

My article for Aman ki Asha, “hope for peace”, the India-Pakistan peace initiative launched in 2010 by two media giants on either side, the Jang Group of Pakistan and the Times of India

The morning of Wednesday, 22 June 2016 dawned in New York with shattering news of the target killing of Amjad Sabri in broad daylight across the world in Karachi. The tragedy, devastating for millions of fans, was a personal blow for the legendary classical music maestro Naseeruddin Saami and his sons, on tour in the USA towards the end of their first ever visit to America.  Continue reading

Farewell, Aslam

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Aslam Azhar, Islamabad, 2013. Photo: Beena Sarwar

My personal tribute to a giant of progressive politics in Pakistan, published in The Friday Times on Jan 15, 2016, posted below with links that didn’t make it into the TFT copy. 

By Beena Sarwar

Aslam. That’s what everyone, junior or senior, in the theatre group Dastak called him. He insisted upon it. That was just one aspect of Aslam Azhar, the founding father of Pakistan Television and already a legendary figure in the late 1980s. That was when I joined the theatre group that he had started in 1982 with his close friend and comrade Mansoor Saeed – who also insisted on being called Mansoor. Continue reading

‘More Than My Religion’: Reclaiming the narrative

imageMy article for The News on Sunday, Nov 8, 2015 on the ‘More Than My Religion’ (Oct 8-Nov 17) at City Hall, Providence RI – a unique exhibition showcasing art by American Muslims that aims to break stereotypes and build bridges — and help the homeless. Continue reading

Jimmy Engineer: The artist, his inner voice, the lion story and a dream

Jimmy Engineer stands with protestors at the 4th monthly remembrance for Peshawar school massacre, in Boston. Photo: Ehsun Mirza

Jimmy Engineer stands with protestors at the 4th monthly remembrance for Peshawar school massacre, in Boston. Photo: Ehsun Mirza

An article I wrote for The News on Sunday about the artist, humanitarian and peace worker Jimmy Engineer, The artist and more, May 3, 2015. Reproduced here with additional links and photos.

“There is a long list of people who are activists and who take up causes who get killed. It’s an endless list, and it’s a senseless list,” says Jimmy Engineer.

I’m talking to this Pakistani artist and philanthropist on the phone, having him met a few times in the Boston area. Based in Karachi, he’s visiting the USA, currently in Houston where his parents live. I’ve called to ask if he heard about the murder of activist-entrepreneur Sabeen Mahmud in Karachi.

He puts the tragedy in perspective as part of the perennial struggle between good and evil. “There will always be those who try to improve things and raise a voice to create awareness. There will always be those who want to destroy them. This happens everywhere in the world. Nature also takes its toll. Along with all the positive, there’s always a negative, like the Nepal earthquake.”

Sabeen herself well understood herself and exemplified this philosophy, accepting that negativity and evil exist but yet continuing to strive to do what is possible on a personal level. Life is a never-ending struggle and we each need to do what we can. Continue reading

Samina Quraeshi : Bridging worlds

Samina Quraeshi: always dazzling. Photo by Andreas Burgess

Samina Quraeshi: always dazzling. Photo by Andreas Burgess

My article in The News on Sunday today about Samina Quraeshi (October 12, 1944-September 25, 2013), who will be treasured as a movie maker, photographer, designer, architect, writer, city planner, storyteller, and on and on…  See her introduction to

By Beena Sarwar

While in Pakistan nearly a year ago, filming for her documentary, ‘The Other Half of Tomorrow’ on the complexities and empowering aspects of the lives of Pakistani women, Samina Quraeshi suffered a stroke that doctors feared she would not recover from. Miraculously, she did. Her own indomitable spirit, the best medical care, and undoubtedly the love and prayers of countless friends and well-wishers pulled the vivacious, versatile writer, artist, and designer back from the brink.

Her right side was left paralysed, but she carried on with her characteristic zest for life, even though, as she said sadly, “I can’t even hold my granddaughter.” Continue reading

Pakistan artists – challenging dictators and contemporary thought

Largest exhibition of Pakistani contemporary art on display Sept. 24 at National Art Gallery, Islamabad at 5 p.m. to celebrate 30 years of Rohtas Gallery. Sixty five artists will exhibit more than 165 works in a testimony to Pakistan’s contemporary artists and an amazing journey through their growth and contribution to art over three decades. Rohtas Gallery opened in 1981 when a repressive military dictator ruled Pakistan. Rohtas Gallery defied constraints and offered space and inspiration to Pakistan’s artists who wanted to challenge contemporary thought and encourage others to do the same through their work. This exhibition on Sept. 24 celebrates Rohtas Gallery and Pakistan’s artists and their amazing journey together.

Protests against Police Brutality in Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore

Call for Protest Rally against the brutal attack on Nairang Gallery, Lahore  and its curator and staff by SHO Shadman Police Station Rana Zulfiqar – Please also see facebook event THREE Protests against Police Brutality in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore  

Artists, art critics and gallerists and civil society members will demonstrate in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad on August 13, 2011 (details below) to show solidarity with Nairang Gallery, Lahore, which was attacked on August 2, 2011 and register their protest against the reprehensible behavior of the police. They will demand a public apology by SHO Rana Zulfiqar and his dismissal from the police force for beating the curator and staff of Nairang Gallery. All concerned citizens must unite to stop police violence against citizens. Continue reading

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